16-year old Dutch sailor Laura Dekker will complete her quest to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world today when she arrives back at the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. She is expected to make landfall around 3 PM local time this afternoon, exactly a year and a day after she set out on her voyage.
Dekker gained international attention when she first announced her intent to sail around the world at the age of 13. That sparked a great deal of debate on how young was too young for that kind of endeavor. Officials in the Netherlands even went so far as to step in and block her from sailing while they evaluated her skills and observed her relationship with her divorced parents. Eventually, after months of legal wrangling, she was allowed to sail, and at the age of 14 she hit the open water aboard her ship the Guppy.
Her shakedown cruise of Guppy took her to Portugal and then across the Atlantic to St. Maarten, where she tuned the vessel and prepared it for the long journey ahead. From there, it was through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Her non-stop crossing of the Atlantic was the final hurdle to overcome before being done.
Now, more than a year and a half after she initially set out, Laura’s about to reach her goal, and break the previous “youngest around” record by eight months. That record was set back in 2010 by Aussie Jessica Watson, who was 17 at the time.
On her blog, Laura says that she is looking forward to being back on land, taking walks and enjoy fresh food, while spending time with her family. They will greet her at a ceremony in her honor upon her arrival today, where a host of journalists are expected to be on hand to interview the teen.
Congratulations to Laura on a job well done. When I was 16 I could barely circumnavigate around the block in a car.